Nov 30, 2008

Quicker than anyone dreams

Sunday, November 30, 1941, adds a fresh dateline. In Berlin, Japanese Ambassador Hirashi Oshima receives a cable from Tokyo: "Say very secretly to (the Germans) that there is extreme danger that war may suddenly break out between the Anglo-Saxon nations and Japan through some clash of arms and add that the breaking out  may come quicker than anyone dreams." 

Transmitted in "Purple," the highest security Japanese diplomatic code (which we had been reading for a very long time),  it may have been read in high-level Washington even before it was by the ambassador.   No one in Washington thought it important enough to relay to Hawaii. 


Ed Layton and  Joe Rochefort took no Sunday ease on Oahu beaches. Intelligence chief Layton pored again and again  over information from across the Pacific. Jap carrier divisions 1 and 2 were still no where to be found.  Rochefort's and his cryptographers, still trying to make useful sense of the  Japanese naval code JN25, made no important breakthroughs and were forced to use the crudest form of SigInt (signals intelligence)  -- guessing based on what little of the code they had  broken, primarily radio direction finding  on the (almost) enemy ships whose call signs they knew.

Pearl Harbor code breakers had been forbidden by Washington to read Purple code. In the Philippines, MacArthur had the necessary machines and could read it at will. 


Still far to the north, but getting closer,  Communications Officer Kazuiyoshi  Koichi of the  Hiel was having an uncomfortable  time of it.  Kudo Butai meteorologists had it wrong yesterday, and Sunday's weather was miserable. Besides,  he was sleeping badly on his wooden box pillow full of vital radio parts from the battle cruiser's transmitters. From Yamamoto himself had come the order:  Strict radio silence until after curtain rise, one week from today.

Secretary of State Hillary

I hereby announce the end of  my patience with the Obama Administration. 

Nov 29, 2008

Pearl Harbor -- Tora Notes

It's fair to wonder where this stuff is coming from. Aside from the general memory of an amateur student of the matter, the reliance so far is primarily on "Infamy" by John Toland and "I Was There" by Edwin T. Layton.

An historical coincidence: The days of the week /dates this year  correspond to those of 1941.

All dates are western hemisphere. Add one to get eastern. (It's a lot easier to think of the International  Date Line as the Sunday-Monday line; Sunday here, Monday there. It saves a lot of mental wrestling with the old gain-a-day or lose-a-day explanations.)

The Last Peaceful Weekend

Official Washington at the Limo Level was quieter on Saturday, Nov. 29, 1941. The President was away after a meeting with Hull, Stimson, Admiral Harold R. Stark, and Army Chief George C. Marshall. The Friday conference was to float his idea of a note to Emperor Hirohito, urging  conciliation. War Secretary Stimson  opposed it. He wanted to strike at the Japanese fleet in the South China Sea. The others preferred an ultimatum saying America would fight if the southern fleet passed a certain line.

 In Toland's words, " Roosevelt didn't feel like arguing. He agreed.  He was impatient to take his sinus problem to Warm Springs...". 

It was a vacationy time in the Capitol. Marshall had just returned from Florida and was trying  to get back up to speed on what had been  happening with  this Japan thing.

Not so at Station Hypo,  Admiral's Kimmel's   code-breaking shop at Pearl Harbor where fleet intelligence officer Ed Layton and  chief cryptanalyst Joe Rochefort were hustling  to answer a pertinent question from scanty evidence. They  knew where a few of the Jap carriers were. Where were the others?"  Layton and Rochefort spent the weekend in the office.

Around 43 degrees north,  Admiral Nagumo nodded appreciatively at seeing the meteorologists' early  weekend reports. Odds suggested better weather  for midweek when his Kido Butai would arrive at its final refueling station.


Nov 28, 2008

High Barbareeeee

We see by the morning news that another ship has been hijacked out there in the Indian Ocean. Just idly wondering here  if anyone has given any thought to blasting some  Somali thugboats out of the water.  

Clean Hands Hull; Thanksgiving, 1941.

As secretary of state, Cordell Hull's professional mission was to keep America out of war, war being an admission of failed  diplomacy by Cordell Hull.  Things had been intense at Foggy bottom, and he was getting frustrated with trying to deal with a couple of senior Japanese envoys. Caving in, he told Secretary of War Henry Stimson Thanksgiving morning: "(I've) washed my hands of it and it is now in the hands of you and Knox -- the Army and Navy."

(Bear Bryant, behind by two points with three minutes to play says, "Hell with it. I'm tired" and leads the Tide to the showers.) 

A dozen pay grades below was a worried Col. Rufus "Togo" Bratton -- who remembers him now? The Army's senior intelligence chief for Asia, he spent the  Thanksgiving holidays with decrypted Japanese cables from Tokyo to its embassies and consulates and writing a memo for the Limo Set. War by Nov.  30. He was a week off, but closer than most of his seniors.

The Bratton memo stirred his  superiors to meet and issue a warning to Pacific generals. "Negotiations with Japan appear to be terminated," began the Army version, then advised Hawaii to guard against sabotage and remarked that Washington was hurrying up on getting reinforcements to MacArthur in Manilla.  If the Japanese were crazy  enough to attack America, that's where it would happen.

Admiral Richmond Kelly "Terrible" Turner handled the Navy warning. He used the phrase "war warning" and parroted the Washington line: the real danger was to the Philippines. He was off only 4,000 ,miles or so.

In Hawaii,  General Short obeyed orders and bunched his warbirds in tight little knots, the better to ward off saboteurs. Admiral Kimmel consulted his war-plans chief about the liklihood of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor  was was informed: "Almost none." 

In the far northwest Pacific, Kido Butai was bouncing badly at 14 knots, course now about due east en route to the final refueling point on the International Date Line. No problem from the crashing gray winter waves. Sailors take storms as a matter of routine, and by now all aboard knew that in a few  days they would come right a few points, bound for the comfortable swells of the warm northeast trades.


Back in the  U.S.A., public attention was rivited.  On Nov. 27, Joe Dimaggio was named Most Valuable Player, American League. 

The greed gene riseth...

Continuing an annual tradition,  I will not shop  today. I like to think of it as an inspiring symbolic tribute to ludditical minimalism, but maybe it's just peurile cussedness.

Doesn't mean I actually forbid my loved ones to shop for me. I  cc'ed them on my letter to Santa,   which asks for just one toy, a nice little Lee Production Pot to melt down the 50 pounds of wheel weights  and miscellaneous leadite taking up shop space. Converted to .452 diameter 230 grainers, that translates to c. 1,500 projectiles for the 1911s -- probably enough  for me to discharge my obligations to liberty  when the New Administration Civilian Security Force sweeps Smugistan-on-Lake in quest of unregistered steak knives.

Thanksgiving? The food and company exceeded the highest expectations as it always does.  Folks who have friends of 30 years are very lucky. Thanks, C's.

And now, back to Tora Tora Tora, day-by-day. Soon as I haul in another armload of firewood and coffee up.

Nov 27, 2008

Don't Worry. Be Happy

The biggest  player  we never heard of in the Pearl Harbor fiasco was Stanley Hornbeck, Rhodes Scholar,  author, diplomat of note, and expert in all things oriental. He'd worked his way to the top of  the Foggy Bottom bureaucracy and had the ear of Secretary of State Cordell Hull. He told his boss the Sons of Heaven were bluffing. America had scads of time to prepare for Pacific war.  The silly goose even put it to paper in a memo to Hull  on Nov. 26:

"Were it a matter of placing bets, the undersigned would give odds of five to one that the Japan and the United States will not be at "war" on or before March 1 (a date more than 90 days from now..)."

In his autobiography he alibied with psychobabble,  hard to parse but apparently  basically claiming he misquoted himself.  Regardless, his memo may have given Hull  the excuse he wanted to go into full-Rambo diplomatic mode, even as the high chiefs of the Army and Navy were pleading: "Stall. We're not ready."

And so far, no one had thought to tell Admiral Kimmel and General Stark much about just how hairy things were getting.  Besides, that Japanese invasion fleet  --the one we knew about -- was a long way from Hawaii, south of Formosa and still chasing the Southern Cross.  Military Intelligence knew that was good news for the Ford Island moorings.

Twelve thousand miles away the choppy North Pacific Ocean aggravated the saki hangovers of the Emperor's airmen. Kido Butai was underway, the Kuriles just below the horizon astern, the sunny tropical target some 3,000 miles beyond the bow. Fleet course east by southeast.  Ten days to glory.

Nov 26, 2008

Back to Ruby Ridge; It's Personal


The excuses are starting to flood the internet from panicked flacks at H.S. Precision, a maker of sniper rifles and gear. HSP figured it  scored a coup in getting an endorsement from one Lon Horiuchi, crack FBI sniper and leader of snipers.  His letter is spread across the back of the new HSP catalog. Bad guess. Bad endorser. 

Balls in a vice, the best the company can do so far is disclaim prior knowledge of  who Lon Horiuchi is, other than a government killer,  honorably retired.   No Google there at HSP? Or just too busy to enter the 12  keystrokes yielding  17,300 Horiuchi hits? Or too swamped to ask virtually any of your customers? 

Lon Horiuchi  was the government marksman present and firing  at Ruby Ridge on August 22, 1992.  He  was after Randy Weaver,  wanted on a couple of low-level felony charges. He wounded Weaver,  shot at the back of a fleeing Weaver friend,  missed the friend but cleanly killed Vicki, one shot to the head as she stood behind a door, her baby in her arms. 

This is not the sort of man designed to win friends in the shooting community -- or the community of citizens who object to trigger-happy government snipers just as a matter of general principle.

Enter my memory of  Janine, RIP, my little sister, in her girlish years a Brownie, a horse buff, a barrel racer, and a friend of Vicki Jordison in the Des Moines River valley where our families were neighbors. In due course Vicki, a very nice kid as I recall, married Randy Weaver.  

Before Horiuchi killed Vicki, Janine died of a different  kind of evil, that of stupidity, a driver who explained, "I didn't notice the yellow line on the highway... errr, no, I didn't see the sign, either."

Was -- is --  Horiuchi stupid? Probably not. He got into West Point and graduated. He's clever enough to turn a retirement buck hustling endorsements.  So probably not stupid.  

What does that make him?  

Horiuchi,   you didn't have to hear again what much of your country still thinks of you. You could have taken the pension, foregone the endorsement  fee, and retired to Tierra del Fuego,  mouth shut all the way.

(A fair representation of  current thought on Horiuchi and HSP is available by just clicking Tam's blog,  View From the Porch, over to your left.)

It's not a hoax - Lon Horiuchi;f=21;t=003547;p=0

That's a scan of the back of the new H.S. Precision catalog. The Lon Horiuchi who signed the endorsement of their sniper rifles is the FBI slime who killed Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge. More later.

Gag-starting the day

The  morning news:

The administration and the Federal Reserve rolled out two new programs Tuesday that would provide up to $800 billion in an effort to get more loans flowing in such critical areas as mortgage lending, credit cards, auto loans and small business loans.

Translation: subversives who pay for their stuff are to blame for the depression. Patriots max out the Visas and,  every year or so,  go nothing down, six years to pay, for new wheels.  

Lord Polonius:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Dad phrased it more elegantly once  when I borrowed  for a motorcycle I didn't need. "Dumb s--t."

(I paid off the bike. Had to  because in those primitive days  all us  neanderthals thought it was better to be out of debt than in.)

Nov 25, 2008

Party down tomodachi

The kanji for reaching--pronounced dah-chee=friend, tomadachi

Sixty-seven  years ago today, November 25,  in the cold Kuriles,  a bunch flying    The kanji for reaching--pronounced dah-chees got together on  "Akagi" (Red Castle) for a gay old time. Hot saki by the quart  and a pep talk from the admiral who told them for the first time, "Next stop: Pearl Harbor."  The 30,000-ton carrier, converted from a battle cruiser,  rang with  "Banzais."

At Pearl, Admiral Husband Kimmel was doing what he'd been doing for months, getting the Pacific Fleet ready to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy.  And fighting Washington for information.

In Washington, Cordell Hull tinkered with the  proposal to placate Tokyo, the modus vivendi, finally said  Hell with it,  and ordered his wordsmiths to write something tougher. The questions still remains: Did Roosevelt, acting for Churchill, order him to?

Over at the War Department, Secretary of War Henry Stimson was about to learn that 30-50 Japanese men-of-war and troop transports  were southbound in the South China Sea.  So of course any  Japanese attack would assault  the Philippines or British southeast Asia possessions such as Singapore.   As to Hawaii and the United States fleet there? Not to worry. They wouldn't dare.

Nov 24, 2008

A nice handgun is better, but

Fellow named Fred was misbehaving in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, the other day. Armed robbery, carjacking, hit-run,  and some other stuff you might expect from a 30-year-old  guy on probation and with a rap sheet going back first Clinton Administration.

Finally he sought to acquire  a fresh car in a Harris-Teeter parking lot with no down payment or annoying paper work.  Someone objected by whapping him up longside his haid with a frozen turkey. Fred's hospitalization ensued. Local cops called the citizen's method unusual but seemed to approve.

Thinking about this:

--I do not  object to law-abiding citizens going armed with a frozen Butterball, but I think I'll  cling to the old SW59; fits inside the jeans better; warmer, too.

--Try saying "Fuqua-Varina, North Carolina" with a beat a few times. Then, dammit,  P------, try  to quit saying it.

(On the strength of this newsbeat, P------ is hereby appointed  The McGee Reader official correspondent for Appalachia, but, please, Dear, no more syncopated locales.)

Travis McGee, historian

"With every passing year it will become more quaint. The little tin airplanes bombing the sleepy giants."


Sixty-seven years ago today Secretary of State Cordell Hull called diplomats from England, China, Australia, and Holland into his office for a chat about those annoying Japanese. Hirohito's lads  wanted a lot of American  oil, scrap metal, and  respect. Hull explained to his guests the Roosevelt-Hull scheme to give them a little of the first two and to pretend to give them a lot of the third; save their little oriental faces if we have to, just keep them quiet until MacArthur is ready (hah!).

Meanwhile,  aboard "Akagi," anchored in the bay of Etorofu,  a thousand miles north of Tokyo, swab jockies turned to and made the pilots' area shine.  Party time tomorrow, Baby-san!



Nov 23, 2008

We see by the news today...

Financial  experts say people are beginning to use more cash. Real cash, paper with pictures of dead presidents. Good enough.

The market -- any market -- is a system for telling us how much things cost and whether we can afford them. If we use cash, a glance in our wallets tells us how much we can buy --   loud and clear. 

With plastic you get an ambiguous answer for a long time,  but eventually the Plastic Lawyers come around and take your stuff. Then you know. 

It was McGee's buddy Meyer who said: "Everything is easier when you face reality."

Nov 22, 2008

I say, Old Chap

The Mother Country has erased guns (and working hard on pen knives), so there is no crime. Smoking in pubs is a criminal act, so London lungs are pretty pink.  But they face a new terror, AP reports today.

One  Imogen Shillito, shrieksperson for a Brit  do-good health organization,  is horrified that young masters and  their birds can  buy Guinness "with their pocket money" ...

(Imogen, My Dear, that is the desiderata, from Liverpool to Smugistan and beyond.  You would ask the thirsty to consult a mortgage brokre to finance a pint?)

...The result, she fears, is more rapidly deteriorating Albionic livers.

No. 10 Downing is listening, and throughout the realm serfs and yeomanry ponder dreary demise of the culprit -- happy-hour twofers or threefers or whateverthehell passes for a popskull bargain if  you can find a pub  in the fog.

Now, science and personal experience agree that the way to take booze  is "damned carefully." 

But surely somewhere in our common heritage, Imogen, we've concluded that Royal Authority ends short of man's own personal liver.  Haven't we?

Does the  new nobility of the  Sceptred Isle lust for a  land where nobody dies? Even if everyone wants to?



Now there are some real Luddites

For 74 years,  Roxbury, Vermont, library patrons  had to run next door to an accommodating church to answer natural calls.  Now, the AP reports, the old place is getting  indoor plumbing. 

The new  biffy en suite may  be a fine thing, but let not the era pass without a salute to generations of Roxburians willing to hold on for  a couple more excruciatingly cross-legged  moments  in order to see how Travis handles Puss Killian's note of adieu.

And then there's that  other nice Vermont characteristic. Those guys actually believe the Constitution means what it says about good folks going armed, so a law-abiding guy can slip his 1911A1 in his waist band and go for a walk, no permission required.  (I can carry here in Smugistan, too, but I had to ask 

Giggle Away

It you're bored, feel free to  gape and  giggle as I construct this thing. I've had to learn a little about digits over the years, but the default mode remains profanity while  pushing the button harder.